Saturday, August 30, 2008

Website of the Day: Annie's Resource Attic

Annie's Resource Attic is a site for teachers that offers activities and animations for download in a variety of formats including Classroom Suite, Clicker 5, My Own Bookshelf, Power Point and Test Me, Score Me. This is the "attic" of the Anne Brundige studio..

All activities are free, list suggested ability level (cause and effect and up) and have a description of the activity. The site is set up like a blog and can be subcribed to using an RSS reader like Google Reader or Bloglines.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beyond a Voice AAC and Literacy

As I always tell parents, our students cannot communicate their own original thoughts unless they either use a language compaction program like Unity/Minspeak (which, in my personal experience, can be limiting to literacy) or unless they can read and spell.

Reading and spelling has so many other benefits, as well as being a basic human right, that it is often the way to go. If you work with people of any age who use AAC to communicate you should check out the webcast about AAC and literacy at AAC-Rerc. It is never too late to learn to read.
Many of you know PRC has been doing major work with literacy lately, now one of their competitors, Dynavox, has announced it will follow suit. The following new information was announced on Lon's podcast No Limit's to Learning "A.L.L (Accessible Language Learning) - A literacy program coming this fall (September 08) from Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox. Includes phonemic awareness, sound segmentation, etc. Provides guided and independent practice. Can be accessed on a Dynavox device, on Boardmaker plus or stand alone on a computer. The system compliments reading curriculums already in place as a supplement.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sites of the Day

Here are two sites to check out for back to school. I recommend getting a mini portable external hard drive or a very high capacity flash drive and filling them up with the worksheets and activities from these sites and others, all the boards from the Yahoo Boardmaker Group and anything else you may you from year to year, setting to setting.

  • Kidz Club Learning Resources has a variety of seasonal, reading, math and basic concept PDF worksheets and activity ideas, download to your drive for last minute lessons and time fillers
  • Therasimplicity is created to be a paid online boardmaker replacement for speech and occupational therapists, however it has a variety of hand outs, worksheets and games that are useful for the special education teacher. A thirty day trial membership is plenty of time to explore the site, see if you want to sign up and download any handouts, worksheets or activities you may wish to keep on hand on your hard drive.
  • SuperDuper is one of my favorite companies and they provide samples of many of their products in PDF format, i.e. this summer I didn't send my students favorite game, All About Me, All About You to ESY, but I was about to download the questions from the game from the SuperDuper site and the ESY teacher was able to use them. They also have an extensive handouts section.
  • SEN Teacher if you haven't been here in awhile SEN Teacher has some new printables for downloading and printing with no need to differentiate or make age appropriate or our kids
  • TSL Books This site has worksheets, activities, crafts and puzzles for grades Pre-5 all free

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yuichi's Games

Yuichi's Games is an add-on to Boardmaker Plus and Boardmaker SDP. From what I understand it is one heck of an add on, it is completely switch (and touchscreen, and head/eye tracker) accessible games. Nine games for sixty dollars. I put in my order with my $300-500 of materials I was allowed to order with my classroom budget last May, so hopefully the disk is waiting for me on September 2nd.

Yuichi's Games is also Yuicihi's wonderful new blog. Yuichi is now an employee of Mayer-Johnson doing full time development for them. If you are a member of the Boardmaker Yahoo Group (or QIAT or someother listservs) you know Yuichi from his postings. Yuichi's blog brings some of his postings to life explaining some of the more complicated, advanced features of Boardmaker Plus or SDP with tutorials and videos. I can't wait to go install youtube videos into Boardmaker Plus Boards.

Just think I can make it so I will not have to activate a music video of Mambo No. Five or Who Let the Dogs Out as a reward, Boardmaker Plus can do it for me!

Did you Jott?

If you did you probably know it isn't as free as it used to be. Jott is a speech to text application that works over the phone. It allows you to call in your text messages, e-mails, blog entries and more. Jott still has free portions, but now is out of beta testing and cost $4 a month for 15 second Jotts and more for longer Jotts.

Some of the things Jott was being used for in special education were quickly calling in qualitative and quantitative data to e-mail, allowing students to call in assignments to their e-mail so they don't forget them, allowing students to use it as a compensatory technique for memory issues (and using it youself this way) and much more.

Here are some other, similar services you can try if you liked Jott and still need something free:
  • Dial2Do is speech to text that is free and works with text message, twitter, jaiku, e-mail and a reminder list
  • ReQall is a service very similar to Dial2Do and Jott, free speech to text with delivery to voice, instant message, text message, e-mail as well as rss and various widgits
  • is unified messaging services, basically they provide you with a phone number and then e-mail you every voice mail and fax you recieve on that number, thus you could call yourself with your reminders, data, etc. and receive them via e-mail
  • Grand Central is another service intended to control your phone service, it give oyu a phone number that rings the phone of your choice when you get a call it also is a visual voicemail, it converts your voicemail from speech to text and emails it to you and it has many other features, run by Google it is in Beta right now
  • You Mail another service similar to above, but you use your own number
Phone Specific Services
  • Vlingo is a service for Blackberry users that voice enables most features on your phones including email and texts
  • Evernote is a service for iPhone users, it doesn't seem to be totally free (or maybe it is? I don't have an iPhone - could someone comment?) but it does seem to be what iPhone Jott users are switching to

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Classroom Schedules and Functional Curriculums

With a new class this year, in a new building, I have spent a lot more time than usual preparing my classroom schedule and reflecting on the difficulties on addressing both the federally and state mandated academic curriculum and the absolutely necessary functional curriculum all while meeting personal care and behavioral needs (and assuring my paraprofessionals get their well deserved breaks). Below is a Slideshare of where I am right now with scheduling. (Click icon of the screen to actually be able to read it.)

It looks good on paper, but will 15 minutes really be enough to bring three girls and a boy (By the way when does that happen in intensive special needs? More girls than boys in a class? This has to be a first!) to the rest room and "freshen up" the other young man? Besides we all know the schedule will be blown to bits by a seizure, a "meltdown", a fire drill, an assembly, wheelchair clinic and/or therapy schedules many days. Still I love to think that it is possible to fit everything that is important into the (completely inadequate) 30 hours a week I am allotted.

Schedule 2008 2009
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: boardmaker high)

There is a very interesting article in this month's Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities on the factors contributing to the use of a functional curriculum in a cross categorical special educational classroom. It really pushed me to reflect on whether my beliefs about the value of a functional curriculum match what I do in the classroom. It also pushed me to think about how much NCLB and mandated state assessment takes time from my instructional day and limits the time I have to actually address functional curriculum. Reading the article made me shift a few things around in the schedule and think about how to better balance what I am mandated to do by the law and what I am mandated to do by my student's needs. In a contest between teaching to a test and teaching my student the skills that will bring them better outcomes in life and a higher quality of life overall deciding what to do takes mere seconds.

Besides what good is knowing who Walt Whitman is or your state's history if you have no way to communicate it? And what good is knowing algebra or geometry if you can't count money or tell time? And what good is knowing how to write or type if you can't figure how to make a grocery list and then shop for those groceries?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beyond the Traffic Light

Traffic Light systems for behavior management are very popular right now. Many teacher catalogs sell pocket charts designed to use this system. I myself have used this system in the classroom and found what many teachers have found, it works great... until about March.

Traffic Light Systems might seem like a positive reward system in the beginning, especially if everyone starts on "red" and earns their way to "green". However, if everyone starts on "green" and "drops a level" as a penalty for some misbehavior or misdeed then it is really a response cost system or if once students earn a level higher than "red" and then drop back down as a penalty it is a response cost system.

Some problems with response cost are that students who frequently enter into the "yellow" or "red" soon discover that this is "not so bad" and it becomes little deterrent to further negative behavior, the attention that a student receives from the act of dropping his or her level may be just enough attention to reward him or her for acting up (and ensure he or she does it again) and the "traffic light" system does little to teach or reward appropriate behavior, especially for the 80-90% of kids who are usually doing the right thing.

Think about it this way - which is more likely to get you to drive carefully and courteously the possibility of a traffic ticket (response cost) or an officer stopping you and giving you $100 for yielding in an intersection (intermittent reinforcement).

Perhaps instead of using that traffic light system as a response cost system you could use it as a classroom wide positive reinforcement, i.e. put everyone on red, including you and all the paraprofessionals. Then anytime anyone receives a compliment (decide on the rules ahead of time is it only compliments from you? from any adult? from adults and peers?) they go to yellow and then to green. When the whole class is on green the whole class gets a reward such as a party, lunch with the teacher, no homework, a trip, bring your own money to order out (BYOMOO), etc.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

IEP at a Glance

In mentoring with a first year teacher preparing for the start of the school year I asked her to prepare IEPs at a Glance for each of the students in her new class. I am doing the same, as it turns out that I too have a mostly new class this year.

Just like it sounds an IEP at a Glance provides all of the vital info from an IEP on one page. It allows teachers, paras, therapists and others to see that information quickly and easily when needed.

Below is a copy of the Boardmaker version of an IEP at a Glance form I made that can be down loaded as a PDF from slideshare or from the Yahoo Boardmaker Group. Also there are links to many other versions of IEPs at a Glance or One Page IEPs online.

Iep At A Glance
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Free Long White Cane to All Those Who Are Blind

Baltimore, Maryland (August 19, 2008): The National Federation of
the Blind (NFB), the nation's oldest and largest organization of
blind people, today
announced an initiative to ensure that any blind person in the United
States and Puerto Rico who needs a long white cane will have one,
regardless of ability
to pay. The NFB will provide a free cane to anyone in the fifty
states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico who is blind or has
low vision and who
uses or desires to use a white cane in order to travel
independently. This historic initiative is the largest effort ever
of its kind to provide white
canes to individuals who are blind or have low vision.

"The white cane is both a symbol of and a tool for independence,"
said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the
Blind. "It allows blind
individuals to travel whenever and wherever they want, leading to
self-confidence and self-sufficiency. With the initiation of this
landmark program by
the National Federation of the Blind, every blind person who wants
the freedom and mobility that a white cane provides can have it."

The long white cane provides an effective means for blind students to
get to school, blind adults to get to work, and blind seniors to
remain active.
Art Schreiber, a retired broadcaster from Albuquerque, New Mexico,
said: "As an active blind person and someone who has traveled
throughout the world,
I know the white cane means freedom for blind seniors everywhere."

Melissa Riccobono, a blind stay-at-home mom and educational
consultant said: "As the mother of an active twenty-month-old son, my
cane helps me to safely
navigate through my busy day from walking to the playground to
visiting the pediatrician."

It is estimated that 109,000 of the 1.3 million legally blind people
in the United States use a white cane. By supplying canes free of
charge, this program
provides the opportunity for all blind Americans to have a white cane
and to participate fully in society.

The National Federation of the Blind will provide a straight, light
fiberglass cane to any blind individual in the United States or
Puerto Rico who requires
the cane for personal use. Canes are available in the following
lengths: 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, or 63 inches. Individuals may only
request one free cane
in any six-month period. For more information on the use of the long
white cane and the National Federation of the Blind free cane
program, please visit

Teaching Time Telling Resources

Interactive Online Activities
Worksheets, Worksheet Generators and Printables

Clipart and Photos
Downloads (Games, Talking Clocks, Stop Watches Timers and More!)
Books and Music About Time for Kids
Commercial Time Teaching Products

Friday, August 15, 2008

Communicative Mouse Pad

Long a fan of Giving Greetings, the company that sells greeting cards and note pads (among other things) that utilize Mayer-Johnson Picture Symbols today I noticed this on their sister site, Say It with Symbols (which sells clothing and gifts) today. It is a mouse pad that has a communication board for the picture. Toss those old, stained mouse pads from computer companies, Edmark and local pharmacies and consider adding a few of these to your classroom for $15.00 each.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Boycott The Movie Tropic Thunder

The following disability groups (and nearly a dozen more) are calling for a boycott of the new movie Tropic Thunder which negatively portraits a man with cognitive disabilities, including orginally using the line, "once upon a time there was a 'retard'".
The following websites can help you teach about ableism and stopping mistreatment and bullying of those with cognitive and other disabilities:
I happen to think that if we stop the R-word another word will just replace it unless we, as a community of people with disabilities and their allies, find a way to radically change how society perceives intellectual and other challenges. Just look at the history of the words we have used to label people with various cognitive disabilities - "feeble minded", "idiot", "moron", etc. If we start using the words, "developmentally delayed" how long will it be until the kids on the playground start calling each other "D.D.s."? My God daughter has Asperger's syndrome and in her middle school the big insult was to be called a "SPED". It isn't the R-word, but it needs to stop. Getting rid of the R-word isn't going to stop the "short bus" joke either. I wouldn't be surprised if "on the spectrum" becomes a school yard slam in time.

That's because when we just change the word we haven't changed the perception. (Otherwise we wouldn't need to keep changing the word.) We need to think about bigger change than just vocabulary. We need to change the stigma of disability. We need to get rid of the stigma of disability. We need to change the idea of "normal". We need to expand "normal" to include every person of every kind of ability.

We need a movement. We need a revolution. It is time to expect society to do the right thing and stop the R-word and every former version of the R-word and every future version of the R-word, not because it is the R-word, but because people are people and the perception of disability as a negative has stopped being an insult.


This fantastic reinforcer list was posted to the QIAT list serv today. Just in time for the new school year and keeping in mind all the ways we can set up positive behavior supports for our students.

Here are some other lists of reinforcers:

How to conduct a forced choice reinforcement assessment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crocodile Dentist

Remember the Crocodile Dentist game? Maybe you had one as a child, maybe your friend had one, or maybe (like me) you just saw the commercials and wished you had one. Now Hasbro has an online version everyone can play for free. It works fine with touch screens and should work well with eye gaze and head trackers with some way to "click". Enjoy! (You might want to enjoy it with the sound off, it gets annoying.)

I am pretty sure I got this link from Barrie at One Switch.

P.S. I am in awe of the summer site statistics. Since June first there have been just barely under 27,000 visits to the site and 84 MP3 downloads of blog entries via Odiogo. And it's summer! And I wasn't posting some of that time because I was sick! Good thing more and more intensive/severe/profound special needs blogs are popping up to fill the need for this kind of information!

Monday, August 11, 2008

List Serv Gone Bananas

I belong to a bunch of List Servs, related to both my professional life (Boardmaker, QIAT, ATA, Resna, TEAL) and Personal Life (Boston SnB, Save Darfur, etc) and right now my inbox is a sea of "Boardmaker" green (the color of the labels I apply to Boardmaker emails).

The end of last week an e-mail went out over Boardmaker from the moderater, who I have had virtual conversations with and who lost a neice the same time I lost my sister, stating she was dissappointed with the level of participation on the group. She stated that participation was down and requested people post files, ask and answer questions and share via the list. She also asked people respond or they would be removed from the list.

I have to admit the tone of the e-mail struck me at first as bitter and unkind. It even made me wonder if the moderator was okay or if she is going through as hard of a time with her grief as I am. Then I thought for a while and depersonalized it, realizing that I have been posting, I have put a number of boards up this month and answered a few questions. I commented something along those lines.

Yet my inbox continues to be flooded in a sea of green Boardmaker messages. Some are folks saying, "Keep me in the list", others (many, many less) saying "get me out of here". Some are complaining about the tone or content of the scolding e-mail. Others are just getting on with it, reminded that the group is here and school is starting soon. People are asking questions, answering them posting boards and doing all of the things the board is meant to do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Precision Songs: ABA Music to Teach Functional Language

Precision Songs is a series of music recording and books/worksheets designed for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. The aim is to teach functional language through music. The song uses a method that involves repeating a pattern of language in order to illustrate a concept. Although some music is easily identified as children's or folk music (the Proud Song is The Ants Go Marching) many are not, however it is doubtful that this music will pass muster as age appropriate past elementary school. That being said I can see this music being an excellent resource in speech therapy and the classroom in early childhood and elementary settings.

Right now there is a half off sale on bundles (CD and books together).

Please note: Although nothing indicates the CDs/Books have religious content (except the obvious religious Sing to Show What I Believe) the website does contain religious links and the news letter has religious comments.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Name Stamps

Many of us use name stamps with student who cannot physically write there names (and many of us who cannot afford name stamps use one dollar labels from the dollar store pre-printed for sticking on papers). Now a company has gone a step further and is selling name stamps that are in a dotted font for tracing. You can choose all CAPS or mixed but sadly it is first name only (limited to nine letters).

Isn't that a great idea for pre-writers of all ages? I am sure special educators and OTs will be all over it. See it at The Little Stamp Company.

Don't worry non-writers aren't left out! The funky font series is perfect for them! There are eleven fonts to choose from and three colors.

All stamps are about $27.00 CA plus shipping. There is a sale write now for orders over $80.00 (great if you need to order stamps for your entire class or school.)

Age Appropriate "Sippy" Cup

Do you have a student in your room over the age of three who still needs to drink from a "sippy" cup? Have you been looking for a cup that will allow this young person to drink with out standing out for using a baby cup? This Klean Kanteen may be the answer. The "sippy" is an Avent mouthpiece, just like on must babyish cups, but the bottle is a reusable, lightweight 12oz stainless steel bottle, with a wid opening for ice cubes. You can buy it at Nubius Organics or Amazon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm upset because... You can help me by...

As has been posted here before the team in our classroom at school has an extremely effective technique we used to address many negative behaviors. It is based on the idea that all behavior is communication. We teach our students to state how they feel, why, and what staff or peers can do to help them. Most of the students use high tech AAC for this, but this summer this lower tech AAC binder was created for one student and then changed in small ways and duplicated for other students. I will post to the Yahoo Boardmaker Group if anyone want to be able to change it in Boarmaker or download from Slideshare as a PDF to use as is.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

G-Tube Clothes

This is a follow up to the blog entry Tube Feedings at School.

The following companies sell clothing for children and/or adults who use g-tubes for nutrition and/or hydration. You may want to share these sites with parents this upcoming school year.
One of my biggest pet peeves is undershirts under body jackets with no cutout for the g-tube in the undershirt. For this school year I have used those packets of iron on patches meant for worn out knees on pants (you can find them in the sewing notions section of discount stores and drug stores) and ironed them over the area where the g-tube if and then cut a hole (the patch is on the outside as to not be an irritant). This way if the student does not have on a shirt with a hole we can change to one when we put on the body jacket during the morning change. Nothing makes me crazier than a student who cannot fully participate because he or she cannot sit up straight because his or her body jacket has been removed for a feeding (and likely will not be put back on for some time if at all).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Six Message Communication Device DIY for $30.00

This message box records six messages for play back at the touch of a button. It would be perfect for low-vision/blind students with good dexterity or students with good memory who do not need pictures or words to remember which message is where. Another idea is to record six sentences or words and have a student have to play them in order to make a story or full sentence. The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tactual Books and Activities

Are you looking for some new ideas for activities for your learners who have low vision or are blind? Here is a website with some great photos of tactual activities you can make. Check it out.

Tactual Books and Activities

Monday, August 4, 2008

Imagine What You Could Do with This! CamSpace

This free software is currently in closed beta (that means you can't have it yet) from Cam Space.  Open beta is coming and you can sign up to be notified.  It works most web cams. There site includes links to a wiki, a blog, FAQ, and a number of featured applications.

Until it comes out of beta you can play around with Eye Toy.

Thanks to Barrie from One Switch for the link.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

T's Technology

This is T, a former student of mine, who now lives a few towns over in a group living situation and works in program for adults with disabilities. She asked me if she could show off her computer prowess online.

T is profoundly blind, has athetoid cerebral palsy and mild hearing loss. She uses a Darci USB with a single switch at right temple to type using Morse Code on her computer. Using her left switch she accesses Jaws, her screen reader (which was not really cooperating for her today) via a switch interface. The University of Massachusetts at Lowell Engineering Department took T's computer on as a project and build her a special speaker mount which drops down from her push bars on the back of her wheelchair so she can hear her Morse Code beeps and Jaws better. (Sidenote: hearing those beeps brought back all those years of her in my classroom, beeping away at her school work. I'll never forget the month we spent learning about contractions in spelling.)

Next to her monitor hangs a sign her old school (after my class) made her so the program assistant at her house can set up her computer. It explains step by step, in simple language, what to do, a brilliant idea.

Today T was asking about switching to a different service for her instant messaging, perhaps Meebo or Miranda- something that will allow her to chat with friends who use all sorts of different instant messagers. Does anyone out there know how these will behave with Jaws? (The Darci behaves like a regular keyboard so that is less of an issue if her correspondent is patient.) T tried to join QIAT today so she could ask the group for herself (she's an independent kind of gal), but their site up website was down. Also T and I chatted about maybe using Twitter or Plurk, but they seem less likely to get along with Jaws. She is really looking to create some community. Ideas?

You can see more pictures of T online. Here she is skiing as a Wednesday's Child with a local TV celebrity and her dad. Here she is in her senior photograph for the class of 2007 from Perkins School for the Blind (PDF-click, don't try to open in a new tab). I wish I could find a picture of T with her favorite celebrity, Celine Dion, who she has met twice, but there doesn't seem to be any on line.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bumbo Seat and Bigger Bumbo Seat

Lots of special needs classes have been using Bumbo seats for smaller children with relatively low tone.  At about $40.00, $50.00 with the tray, they are a good deal and they do a nice job of supporting certain children.  They come in six pastel colors and are available on many websites and in local department and children's stores.  It is recommended for approximately ages 6-14 months. 
Now a company in Texas has created a Bumbo-like seat for larger children with special needs.  It is called the Childrite Therapy Chair and is specifically designed to be a Bumbo seat for older special needs children.  The seat is 10.5 inches in width, 10 inches in depth and 11.5 inches in height (from the seat bottom to the top of the seat back).  The Childrite Therapy Seat sells for $199.00, but there is currently a deal for $50.00 online.  Also I saw one online at eBay for $175.00.  The higher cost is because of the smaller volume being made and sold as well as the larger size causing a larger amount of material to make it.  Additionally it is made in the USA andthe Bumbo is made overseas.  It should be noted that the Childrite is make with permission of the Bumbo company. 

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